The mobile device landscape, particularly for those devices running Linux, is quickly evolving. Just in the past few days, Google bought Motorola, Qualcomm open-sourced the remainder of their Gobi API for controlling modems, and HP ended off all their webOS devices, among other changes. But will the future mobile Linux device landscape deal with more open-source drivers, particularly when it comes to graphics?
With Hewlett Packard's Q3'2011 earnings that were just released, they have just revealed a couple major news items. HP has confirmed the news that began spreading this morning that they are looking to sell or spin off its personal computer business. They also confirmed they are looking to buy Autonomy Corporation. The surprise news, however, is that HP will be discontinuing operations for webOS devices such as the TouchPad and Pre smart-phone.
While we don't normally talk about Android news, this Monday morning Google has made a particularly interesting announcement that affects their mobile Linux operating system as well as hardware. Google has just announced they will be acquiring Motorola Mobility at a price of around 12.5 billion USD.
Ubisoft, the massive video game publishing and development studio, has been busy playing with Linux. In particular, exploring opportunities presented by Xen virtualization with regards to VGA pass-through as a means of decent gaming performance in a virtualized environment. A discussion began in the Phoronix Forums yesterday about Ubisoft's Xen VGA pass-through demo.
A new open-source DRM graphics driver has appeared in the embedded space. Sascha Hauer with Pengutronix has released the initial DRM base driver for the i.MX IPUv3 as found in the i.MX51 and i.MX53 SoCs. This driver supports the SoC units necessary for frame-buffer support.
CERN, the European organization behind nuclear research and the well-known Large Hadron Collider, has released a new version of its Open Hardware License. Version 1.1 is this new OHL release, which seeks to provide "a legal framework to facilitate knowledge exchange across the electronic design community."
HTC, one of the popular Taiwan-based mobile phone vendors, is going to be acquiring S3 Graphics from VIA Technologies. For around $300 million USD, HTC will have its hands on S3 Graphics and their intellectual property portfolio.
Even after using the Linux 2.6.38 kernel power regression workaround for those systems affected by the ASPM (Active-State Power Management) bug that was detected by Phoronix, some Linux users still don't have their netbook/notebook battery lasting as long as they'd wish. For some, Microsoft Windows 7 is still performing better on the battery and/or Ubuntu 10.04 LTS and earlier. As I've said, there's still at least a couple more Linux power regressions and other areas for optimization that I've discovered and still haven't yet publicly documented in full, some in part due to still analyzing what's happening.
Jesse Barnes, the maintainer of the PCI subsystem for the Linux kernel and one of the developers who signed-off on the patch that I discovered is causing the major Linux 2.6.38 kernel power regression, has commented on the matter.
Nailing down the Linux kernel power regressions (see Linux Has Major Power Regression and Another Major Linux Power Regression Spotted) has made a big step forward this weekend. Not only to fix up these major kernel power regressions that are hitting many mobile Linux users, but to look further into the state of Linux power management is now possible and to closely analyze other areas of the Linux stack to find other areas for improvement.
Embedded GPUs on Linux are a big mess due to their lack of fully open-source drivers, memory management complications, and other technical issues. However, there is some good news to report today and that's on the emergence of a new open-source KMS driver.
It was back in May of 2009 that DisplayLink began providing open-source Linux support for their USB-interfaced graphics processors in the form of documentation and code. Shortly thereafter, frame-buffer and X.Org drivers for DisplayLink USB hardware arrived and it quickly matured. By early 2010 it was possible to produce interesting results with these USB graphics adapters doing things like driving nine monitors over USB from a single computer.
Support for running Linux on new hardware -- whether it be motherboards, wireless adapters, graphics cards, or complete systems -- has largely eased up in the past few years. As can be seen from Phoronix reviews of new hardware at launch, in many cases there is Linux support available (e.g. with AMD's launch today of the FirePro V5900 and FirePro V7900 there is already Catalyst support) that continues to be refined over time whether it be in closed or open-source drivers. Even for vendors committed towards delivering open-source Linux hardware support, the path to new hardware enablement is not easy.
For those that use the Broadcom Crystal HD adapters for video acceleration under Linux, their open-source driver has received a number of improvements just recently.
Landing in the Phoronix e-mail inbox last night was a question by a reader asking how hardware vendors determine the operating systems used by their customers and their respective market-share since there isn't anything to "phone home" and report usage statistics. In other words, this reader had just purchased four desktop processors and he was wondering how to inform AMD that he's a Linux user. This is in hopes of going towards their Linux tally and eventually increasing their Linux level of support.
The major Linux power regression situation seems to only be getting worse at this point. Following the Mobile Users Beware: Linux Has Major Power Regression and The Tests Showing Ubuntu 11.04 On A Power Consumption Binge, a variety of feedback has come in. There's the usual FUD that it's "Moronix" benchmarks and the like, but the fact of the matter is it's a very real problem and it's about to bite Ubuntu 11.04 and other Linux distributions planning to ship with 2.6.38 kernel or later.
On Monday there was the Phoronix news item about Linaro aiming to unify Linux memory management; in particular it's for embedded ARM platforms and making the existing Linux video memory managers more compatible with that of the SoC designs and drivers. They want the memory manager to be able to share memory buffers across different devices and processes, which is something somewhat sought after already by Linux graphics developers for GEM/TTM, but this may end up leading to a new memory management fork.
Back in February the Free Software Foundation deemed creating an open-source PowerVR driver via clean-room reverse-engineering that's complete with a Gallium3D driver to be a high priority action item. More than two months after classifying it as a high-priority item -- and three months after the original proposal -- no work has been accomplished.
Last month I noted some of the problems facing embedded Linux on ARM SoCs in terms of graphics drivers with regard to the variety of memory management APIs available (for graphics there's primarily TTM and GEM within the kernel but also there's other options: HWMEM, UMP, CMA, VCM, CMEM, and PMEM). There's also other graphics driver problems in the ARM world, but the Linaro group has announced they've taken up the issue of embedded Linux memory management for graphics and other areas. They're forming a working group to hopefully work towards resolving this issue for their next six-month development cycle.
As was planned last week, LM_Sensors 3.3.0 has been released over the weekend.
Jean Delvare, the maintainer of the Linux kernel's i2c and hwmon subsystems and the usual release manager of LM_Sensors, has just called for the release of LM_Sensors 3.3.0. Jean plans to release LM_Sensors 3.3.0 so he has put forth a call for testing in the days up to the 26th of March.
For anyone wondering whether the Hydra and other products from LucidLogix yet work under Linux, they do not.
The Southern California Linux Expo is taking place this weekend in Los Angeles. Matthew Tippett and myself will be speaking there tomorrow on Making More Informed Linux Hardware Choices. This is also from which we will be launching Phoronix Test Suite 3.0 and OpenBenchmarking.org.
As many Linux users know, there's a number of motherboard vendors out there who put out very poor/buggy/broken BIOS implementations for their products. For Linux users this can be particularly painful if the changes are catered to workaround issues in Windows but in turn cause a greater mess for non-Microsoft operating systems. As a step to improve the situation, assuming BIOS developers actually will use it, Intel has released a BIOS Implementation Test Suite.
While we haven't talked about Lomoco in a few years nor has there been a new release of this free software project for Logitech Mouse Control under Linux in a while, Lomoco is still being developed. Andreas Schneider is still working on Linux support for the latest Logitech mice via Lomoco.
Canonical has announced this morning they have released the "world's most comprehensive, up-to-date component catalog for Linux." It's effectively a hardware database showing components they have tested. It's interesting, but of course I have more than a few comments on the matter with some constructive criticism.
While Intel is often looked at as being the most Linux and open-source friendly company among the major IHVs, as shown today in Intel's Linux Sandy Bridge Graphics Still Troubling, even in 2011 there are still serious Linux hardware issues to overcome. The Linux hardware support has a much better foundation than where it was at in 2004 when I founded Phoronix, and for hardware that's been in the marketplace for a few months old these problems quickly go away, but for new adopters it's the biggest challenge.
While the free software community was successful in coming up with open-source support for Microsoft's Kinect motion sensing device, there is better support on the way. PrimeSense, the Israeli company that developed this technology, is now putting their hardware into new devices. However, it will not be up to the community to come up with open-source drivers, but the company will be providing the support themselves.
If the PR representative I just spoke with at CES actually knows what she's talking about when it comes to Linux, in the third quarter of this year there may be an open-source PowerVR driver for Linux.
For anyone that happens to be on holiday this week (or just have excess time otherwise), there is another lively and polarized discussion that's been taking place for the past several days on the DRI mailing list. What does it involve if it's not about developer disagreements amongst themselves? Embedded GPU driver support on Linux, of course. This mailing list thread just reaffirms how the situation is a great big mess.
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